Wednesday August 15, 2012 : MAJOR U.S. AGENCIES INVOLVED IN ONLINE GAMBLING BUST
Secret Service, FBI and rubbish rustling surface in Montana case
In Billings, Montana an online gambling prosecution has illustrated the lengths to which US federal authorities will go in stamping out internet sports betting, with evidence that state gambling agents were assisted by the US Secret Service and the FBI in an investigation that included rummaging through the defendant's rubbish for incriminating documents.
Defendant John Fischer appeared before District Judge Gregory Todd this week on arraignment and pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of operating an illegal gambling enterprise; he was allowed to remain free without bail pending his trial, reports the Billings Gazette.
In court records, prosecutors from the state Attorney General's office allege that Fischer operated an Internet gambling site known as Mymvpclub.com that linked to another site used to manage the internet gambling activities. Both websites used servers in Panama, court records state, and were used to make illegal bets on sporting events between July 2009 and December 2011.
State prosecutors say the lengthy investigation began with a tip-off in July 2009. A confidential informant told a state gambling agent that Fischer operated a sports bookmaking operation through the website, providing customers with usernames and passwords and managing bets made on professional and college sporting events.
Enforcement authorities rummaged through Fischer’s garbage for several months, retrieving evidence that included betting ledgers and tickets, along with documents connected to the online betting site based in Panama, court records state.
Also found in the garbage was a receipt for a $400 fund transfer sent to Nicaragua that contained the names of two people that could not be verified.
The state gambling agent requested the assistance of the Secret Service to investigate possible violations of federal law. A federal agent later informed the state gambling agent that Fischer had received money orders from two men with a history of illegal bookmaking.
The state investigator also sent documents to an FBI crime lab, court records show. The lab reported that the documents connected the online site to three illegal bets on professional and college sporting events in September, October and November of 2009 totalling $2,280.
State agents executed a search warrant for Fischer’s residence and property in April 2010. During the search, agents spoke with Fischer, who “readily admitted that he was conducting an illegal Internet gambling enterprise, that he was a bookie operating as a middleman in a nationwide network, and that he used Mymvpcub.com to facilitate transactions with his customers,” court records claim.
A review of Fischer’s 2009 finances show “at least $136,000 in possible gambling losses,” the charging documents allege.
Fischer has a criminal record for a similar offence in 2002, according to the prosecution.
In that case, Fischer cut a deal with state prosecutors, who amended the felony charge to four gambling-related misdemeanours in exchange for his admissions of guilt and agreement to provide “a complete, detailed and truthful statement regarding his sports gambling activities.”
He received a light punishment of a $70 fine, but was required to surrender any gambling licenses issued him by the state and consent to a permanent injunction for a lifetime bar to future licenses.